Five days into the Games and there are already so many side stories, seemingly minor things that sometimes could mean a lot to those involved. Some iconic pictures emerged already, and they are of enormous (at least) symbolic value.
It was on the first day of competition that fellow gymnasts Lee Eun-ju and Hong Un-jong met each other during the qualification round. They just smiled at each other, chatted away between their exercises and took selfies together. The punchline of the story: Lee is South Korean, Hong North Korean…
Then there were the Beach Volleyball players from Egypt, Nada Meawad and Doaa Elghobashy, the first Beach Volleyball team from an Arab country and from the African continent, playing in long clothes with Elghobashy wearing a hijab. A quite unusual sight in their sport, bearing in mind the so often criticized strict clothing regulations by the international Volleyball federation (FIVB), and a contrast to most of their opponents.
And the third beautiful story comes from Rugby’s return to the Olympic stage after 92 years. In the women’s tournament hosts Brazil missed out on the medals but at least one player went home with something much more precious. Marjorie Enya is a stadium manager at the Rugby venue and the girlfriend of Brazilian player Isadora Cerullo. Immediately after the medal ceremony, Enya took hold of the microphone and proposed to Cerullo on the pitch. She said yes, and because they had no ring at that time, Enya tied a ribbon to Cerullo’s finger.
Still, these three stories, as outstanding and remarkable as they may seem, have one thing in common: they are perfectly normal. The two Koreans acted just like any other two young people would do, representing a generation that doesn’t see a necessity for seperation and hostility on the Korean peninsula any more. The Egyptian Beach Volleyball players show that you can do anything you want, take up any sport you want, and be respected in the same way, regardless of what you’re wearing, and, certainly much more important, that all women everywhere in the world should be able to practice the sport they choose, follow careers they choose and live their lifes the way they want to. And two people who are in love with eachother are today fortunately able to marry, regardless of their gender, in an ever increasing number of countries and regions in the world.
This is also what the Olympics are about. Our world is changing, constantly, sometimes for the worse but in so many ways for the better. Here is the place to show it.